Our Stories

Reflections by Our Recent Graduates

June 21, 2016 by Class of 2016 (Students)

Each member of the JPDS-NC Class of 2016 chose an artifact from their time at school to represent and reflect on what JPDS-NC has meant to them. The graduates shared the reflections below in English and Hebrew at their Graduation Ceremony on June 17, 2016. 

Feven Aklilu:
Sixth Grade graduates choose an artifact from their time at JPDS-NC to represent and reflect on what JPDS-NC has meant to them. This is a small clay panda.

JPDS has taught me so many things over these past few years. I thought that this artifact would represent that. I received this panda the first I visited this school. When I first got it, I thought nothing of it so I never cared for it. That same day my mom told me something and she said, “You should keep this. It will be a memory one day in the future when you look back.” So I kept it, and then two years later, I remembered what my mom said and thought about what she said to me and it really stood out to me. Now that I think about this, it really does remind me of a lot of the experiences I have had at this school, and it represents more than a panda to me, it represents a family and home that I and classmates have created at JPDS.

Naomi Meyer:

Sixth Grade graduates choose an artifact from their time at JPDS-NC to represent and reflect on what JPDS-NC has meant to them. This is a hand-drawn chart showing the layers of a rainforest.

My artifact is the model I made of the rainforest in first grade. I don’t remember much from making it, but I do remember bringing it home and practically bursting with pride as I showed to my mom. We put it in our den and it has been there ever since. Throughout my years at JPDS I have grown and learned and changed, but I have always looked at that model and thought the same things. The model reminds me of my first-grade experience: making friends, learning new things, and becoming part of this community. Now, five years later, I am getting ready to leave JPDS. However, no matter how long I’m away from the school of JPDS, I will never leave the community. As my elementary school, JPDS has taught me almost everything I know; but as my community, JPDS has led to great friendships, an amazing sense of familiarity and even family, and so much more. Although this is the last time I will be able to call JPDS my school, it will always be my school in my heart, and it will forever have played a significant part in my childhood.

Jacob Nicolson:
These are clay ten commandments. Sixth Grade graduates choose an artifact from their time at JPDS-NC to represent and reflect on what JPDS-NC has meant to them.

I made this clay model of the Ten Commandments in Kindergarten. I remember that during my work on this project, I had missed a day of school after I began it. When I came back to school, my teacher came and helped me with constructing it and getting it finished. This copy of the Ten Commandments symbolizes to me that JPDS is a Jewish school with people here who have helped me over the years when I needed it.

Ellie Hasenberg:

This painting of a bonfire includes the words, "Friendships made @ JPDS last forever."

JPDS has been a huge and an amazing part of my life for the last seven years. What really stands out for me is the friendships that I have made here. My artifact represents a time we shared at TEVA. Each year, every fifth-grade class goes on a four-day trip on a program called TEVA in which we participate in outdoor activities, learn about our role in tikun olam (enriching the world), and bond with one another.

One night, after hiking all day, we all sat together around a beautiful bonfire that lit up the sky. The color of the flames matched the sunset. It was beautiful. We sat on these bumpy logs and started singing a song about the Earth. We stomped our feet and clapped our hands. We put our arms around each other, and it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. It felt like camp with your best friends. The teachers were at the edge of the logs with their arms around us too. We were like brothers and sisters. We felt together as one. JPDS is now my second home, and the friendships, the family, that I have made here will last me for a lifetime.

Robert Zuckerman:A folder with a drawing of a horse-drawn wagon on the cover.

For my artifact, I chose my folder from my fifth-grade Westward Expansion Project. This project is meaningful to me because it represents a fun project that I worked on at JPDS. This reminds me that at JPDS, I learned about history while having fun at the same time.  It represents one of many lessons I have learned here that my teachers made interesting.  This project reminds me of so many memories that I made here with friends. We worked in groups and had to plan with each other how to overcome obstacles as wagon settlers would have in the mid-1800s. Sometimes what one group did affected another group.

Hannah Davis:
The cover of this project book, decorated with stars, reads, "Tudor Place House and Garden, By Hannah D."

In fifth grade, one of our class projects was the Historic Site Guide. We chose an historic place and made a scrapbook with information and pictures about our visit there. I chose to document the Tudor Place House and Garden in Washington, DC. I chose the site guide for my graduation artifact because it was a meaningful project to me. I loved making it because in each room, I learned about different things and saw the memories of a family. Just like at JPDS, in every classroom I see resemblance of a family. I like to think that JPDS is my own site guide. In every class I had at JPDS, I had wonderful teachers and made wonderful memories with my friends. If you look at Tudor House, you see just a house, but if you look more in depth, you see more details. If you look at JPDS, you see just a school, but if you look closer, you see a community that takes care of you all day long. I will always remember my eight wonderful years at JPDS.

Rebecca Bender:
Rebecca wears her blue-and-gold woven bracelet.

My artifact represents the true bonding experiences I have had with my grade, like TEVA, the Shabbatons, the Philadelphia trip, and our Sixth Grade trip to New York. One of my favorite bonding experiences was at TEVA, a four-day trip in fifth grade where we learned about nature and our role in the world. It was a place where we weren’t at school and had a chance to start over. We could bond with our friends in a different way from how we connect at school. We weren’t in a school atmosphere, and it helped us to become more of the people we are outside of school. Another fifth grade highlight was our Shabbaton, which gave us a chance to be together as we experienced Jewish life in a different community. My favorite times were often when I was hiking on a trail at TEVA or walking to the synagogue with my friends, just talking and laughing.  My artifact is a rope bracelet that I never take off. I wore this bracelet on all of these trips so it reminds me of them.  And just like I always have this bracelet with me, I will always have the friendships and memories from JPDS with me.

Aron Olson:

Aron's artifact is a close-up image of the fibers of a rope.

I have been here but one year and already I have had many good experiences, like the Sandy Springs Ropes Course Field Trip. The feeling of being outdoors and going with my class to just have fun somewhere besides school is just amazing. The rope you see here resembles the ropes and steel wires that were used to keep us from falling down and getting severely injured. It represents the importance of taking risks within the safety of the group.

Johanna Lane:
Johanna's booklet has a drawing of the globe and the words "I am thankful for the WRLD [sic]"

“I am thankful for the world.” These are the words I wrote in my journal, one fall morning in Kindergarten. Seven years later I realize how true those words have become. This school has made me understand all there is to be thankful for in the world, what with all of those field trips in Rock Creek Park, inspirational discussions about our Universe (thank you, Mrs. Schopf), lessons on Haifa in Israel. Every time I learned something new, I found more to appreciate in this world. Each experience, each 7-hour day, has reinforced one long-lasting lesson: Be thankful for what you’ve got, take it, and do something worthwhile. JPDS-NC has taught me, more than anything, to appreciate what this world (or WRLD) has to offer. Thank you to all of the administration, staff, teachers, and friends at JPDS who have made me realize what I should be thankful for.

Simon Katkov:

A crenelated wall made of dark gray modeling clay.

During my time here at JPDS, I have learned many things. I would like to share with you a model of the Great Wall of China that I made as part of a research project. This wall I created shows strength and dedication. The wall represents the support and strength I found in this school. At times, I had trouble, but the dedicated teachers were always there for me to help me accomplish my goals. JPDS has helped me expand my knowledge academically and also to better understand myself.

JPDS has helped me in so many ways. I would like to thank my teachers and my parents for always being there for me. I would also like to thank all my friends for being so supportive of me and helping me overcome challenges. I really love this school, and I will miss it when I go away next year to middle school.

Miriam Rozanski:

A cheerful red-and-blue drawing of a house.

In first grade, we had an assignment where we had to create our own imaginary house and draw a picture of it, and I drew a pink castle. I thought this was a good artifact to write about because for six years, JPDS has been like a second home to me. (It’s not a castle, but it’s still cool.) I’ve always felt happy at JPDS, and I have made a lot of great friends that I hang out with. I also have nice teachers that I always feel like I can talk to when I’m struggling with something in class, or even just to tell them about something exciting going on in my life. JPDS has not only helped me learn about subjects like Hebrew and Math but also about myself. Creating fun art projects like the one I’m writing about made me realize how much I love drawing and inspired me to take art classes outside of JPDS. All of my teachers, friends, and experiences at JPDS have had a big influence on who I am today.

Joey Sandberg:

Joey's artifact is the red bird feeder that hangs in front of the North Campus.

I have learned so much and made many friends here at JPDS in the seven years I’ve been here since Kindergarten. When I first got to this school in Kindergarten, I was a little nervous about going to a new school and making friends. I remember our field trip when we went to a bird museum during our bird project in kindergarten. We got a red bird feeder on the field trip to put in front of the school, and it is still in front of the school now, seven years later. That bird feeder represents all of the projects we had that helped me to understand myself and the world better.

Dalia Hochstein:

Dalia's kindergarten drawing of the Beit Hamikdash (temple) in brown, red, purple, and yellow.

When we were studying Shavuot one day in Pre-K, our teachers told us to draw a picture of what we thought the Beit HaMikdash looked like. When I showed my teachers, they told me it was great. They always encouraged me, and never once did they discourage me. They also told me that you should always be proud of your work and not worry about what other people think. I chose this artifact because my teachers taught me a great lesson that day that has helped me and will continue to help me through the rest of my life.

Lincoln Aftergood:

Lincoln's artifact is a decorative and calligraphic letter "aleph".

Over the years, JPDS has been great for me. I have learned a huge amount in every single subject, especially in Hebrew. I made an Alef on a piece of paper to represent my Hebrew journey over the seven years I’ve been at JPDS. As Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it also represents how my Hebrew learning journey has only just begun. This year in sixth grade, I made a documentary about my family’s journey to America. In this documentary, I spoke only in Hebrew for the full time. This helped me on my Hebrew journey and also connected me to my family, who have been Hebrew speakers for many generations. Creating the documentary was probably one of the most significant experiences that contributed to and represents my growth as a Hebrew student at JPDS. I have focused on Hebrew, but it is not the only subject in which I have made significant progress. JPDS has taught me many important ideas, and my time here has been amazing.

Ellis Feldman:

A model of a battlefield featuring clay soldiers armed with toothpick rifles.

I created a model of soldiers fighting on a battlefield when I researched the effect of passing time on military strategy for my sixth grade research project. This model reminds me of how much effort and time I can put into a project now that I have the skills to dig deeply into a topic. My research essay showed me how much I can accomplish and that I have grown in my thinking and writing skills here at JPDS.

Coco Becker:

A photograph of a Utah vista filled with red rocks and canyons.It is a tradition that third graders here at JPDS become experts on a U.S. state. I was given the state of Utah, a state famous for its rock formations that took many years to evolve into beautiful permanent sculptures. Just like the way that the water forms rocks, JPDS forms a family and a home. When I look back and think of Utah, I think of how beautiful the parks are. Now, when I graduate from JPDS I will remember how beautiful the community is and how everyone is friends and everyone is always kind. I will never forget what JPDS has taught me about educational lessons but also the friendship and how to be in, and help form, a community. This image makes me think of my friendships at JPDS. Most of us have been together since we were four years old. Much like the rock formations, we have been side by side for years without interruption. Our friendships are solid. Through thick and thin we have remained together. And like the rocks formations in Utah we will always be admired and together forever.

Sammy Rabinowitz:

The partially painted interior of the newly refurbished ark, featuring a blue ombre.

Community. My artifact is the ark that Tefillah Committee worked on. My artifact may not directly relate to the aspect of community, but the whole story does. I’ve been in Tefillah Committee since third grade, and I’ve loved it. Earlier, in sixth grade, we were looking for a new project, and we chose to work on refurbishing one of the school’s arks. We created committees and worked together to finish it for next year. We would take free time, non-school time, and we would try our hardest. Most of all, we did it as a group. JPDS builds such a great community, it doesn’t take any big event to bring us together. All it took was Tefillah Committee. The school schedules so many things to help us bond, like Teva, the New York Trip, and Shabbatons, but what I’ve realized is that all of that brings us closer.

I remember coming in Kindergarten, meeting new people, making friends immediately. I went to Israel for half of first grade, and the day I came back, I got so many hugs from friends that it had only taken a year to make. In fifth grade, we read The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. It was about a boy named Matt who was helped by a boy named Attean to survive in the wilderness. “For some reason he could not explain to himself, he trusted Attean. He didn’t really like him. But somehow, as they had sat side by side, day after day, doing the lessons that neither of them wanted to do, something had changed. They didn’t like each other, but they were no longer enemies.” And in fourth grade, we read Because of Winn-Dixie. It was about a girl with a dog who was causing trouble in the community. “‘Are you looking for a home?’ the preacher asked, real soft, to Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie wagged his tail. ‘Well,’ the preacher said. ‘I guess you’ve found one.’”

That quote reminded me of this school. We take in new kids, no matter what grade, and I haven’t seen one person who doesn’t make friends in the first week. I’m sure this school will leave an impact on my life.

Yael Nemeth:

A child's dress in stripes of white, pink, and orange.

This dress is meaningful because it was the first piece of clothing I ever wore here, symbolizing a beginning. Commencement actually means beginning. This ceremony is the end of that beginning, my experience at JPDS. I remember the first day of school, making friendships that would last me through elementary school and probably for the rest of my life. School is a pushing-off point for everything else I am going to do. I remember how much I have done, and what I have achieved. The fact that I, and all of my classmates have done this much in a span of about seven or eight years is inspiring. Everyone I’ve met has taught me something important. I liked everything I’ve started here, and the things I’ve finished too. I will take everything I learned in this school, from Kindergarten to just now, with me.

Lila Schwartz:
A painting of two figures seated in front of a brick fireplace.

I made this painting in art class in 6th grade. It is a painting of a brother and a sister, wrapped up in a blanket and sitting in front of a fire on a cold winter day. It makes me think of JPDS because JPDS is like a family. The teachers are kind and understanding and do their best to teach us, but they have us enjoy learning at the same time. I feel supported by my teachers just as I do by my family. I find it very necessary to do something important but enjoy it at the same time, because it feel like I’m not wasting my time. If I don’t enjoy what I am doing, I find it hard to see the meaning in it. I made so many friendships here that now I have many more family members than I used to. Every morning, when I walk into school, I get a warm feeling inside. While I am excited about going to a new school, I am sad to leave my old one. Luckily, I can always come back and visit this warm and welcoming family.

Matan Rieger:

Brown and white beads strung on cream and red yarn to resemble an ear of corn.

The artifact that I have chosen to write about is an object from an interactive experience that I had in third grade. It is meant to be an ear of corn. I made it at the Native American Museum at the Smithsonian. It stands out for me because it was the only field trip that my dad joined. My dad and I made matching corn stalks out of pipe cleaners and beads. It was the first time that I remember where my family joined me at JPDS for learning. This one memory brings many other happy memories of my times at this school. I loved all the field trips and learning outside our classroom.

Rachel Zuckerman:

This artifact is a smiling self-portrait she drew in kindergarten.To represent my growth over these years at JPDS, I chose a picture I drew in Kindergarten of myself because this was the first thing I remember doing at school. I remember the teacher telling us that when we were older we’d look at this picture, maybe even draw another to see the progress we’ve made. I wanted to tell everyone that in sixth grade I’d draw a picture of myself and hang it next to it, and I kept that promise to myself. Looking at the two pictures, I realize I have changed a lot since then, and so much of that is thanks to my great experiences at JPDS.  I was proud of my self-portrait then, and I am so proud of the person I have become now. I was proud of this picture and still am, knowing I could fulfill my teacher’s wish.

The teachers and administration are great, and they make this school a place of friendship, fun learning, and growth. I love them all and I’ve learned so much from them.

Rochelle Berman:

This colorful collage features a butterfly, curlicues, blue polka dots, flowers, and a stamp reading "LOVE".

I’ve been going to JPDS since Pre-K. For my artifact, I chose a collage that I made in Art, the collage represents all the different parts and aspects of JPDS coming together, which creates a warm, loving, community and school that cannot be matched. The JPDS community is made up of friends, students, teachers, and parents who all care for each other. Another aspect of JPDS is clearly Judaism. JPDS has brought me to love being a Jew and also prepared me to enjoy learning about Judaism and Jewish heritage. Since JPDS is a school, one obvious part would be academics. JPDS has somehow found a way to teach academics in a fun way, whether it’s learning how to read with popcorn words or playing a game to teach you about algebra. I love JPDS, and it’s truly a school that cannot be matched.

Ezra Griboff:

This artifact is a multi-tool with a drill, hammer, and chisel.My artifact is a multi-tool that I created to represent my time at JPDS. It has several uses, each of which expresses how I have grown over the last seven years. The blunt hammer represents how I have been able to crack out of moments when I am sad and to uncover my inner happiness. The fine chisel tool represents how my personality has evolved in shape from being able to show only one side of me at a time to growing into a complex person who contains and shares many dimensions within me. The drill represents my emotional growth at JPDS and learning how to drill down to my heart in order to find and express my emotions. All of these tools that I have found and used here at JPDS will help me as I grow as a student throughout my life.

Noah Knishkowy:

A simple, one-line drawing of a hat.

I have learned a lot at JPDS. But more important than the information I’ve learned are the values. One of those values is expressed in my artifact, a little cowboy hat. I drew this last year during the Westward Expansion Simulation when I chose my own path. Each group had a little icon on a map to represent their progress, but I created my own one and left my group. I ended up in a completely different place, separate from my group, and I was allowed and even encouraged to do that. This story really summarizes one of the most important things I have gained at JPDS: independence. To me, independence is a fundamental value because it isn’t always possible to rely on someone else. While JPDS is a community, the teachers and students make it possible to value independence and interdependence at the same time. That is one of the most important things I’ve learned in all my time at JPDS.

Rebecca Stanislawski:

This cheerful self-portrait uses all the colors of the rainbow.

My time at JPDS-NC has been a great experience, and it has enriched my whole life. It is such an amazing place, and I have chosen an artifact that represents my time throughout the seven years that I have been here. I have picked a Chuck Close-inspired drawing that I made in fourth grade with our wonderful art teacher, Mrs. Wolpert. I chose this artifact because it is so colorful, and my years at JPDS have made me a more colorful person, and they have added excitement to my life. Also, this drawing has so many different squares and parts to it, which represent to me all of the different aspects of JPDS and the way these different pieces all come together to help teach children to grow and learn.

Thank you to everyone at JPDS-NC for enriching my life and teaching me to do things I thought I couldn’t do. I have had such an incredible time at JPDS, and it has taught me so much, from adding 2+2 to learning about dinosaurs to exploring Ancient Egypt. I will always remember my years here.

Seth Kunzman:

The artifact Seth chose to represent his time at JPDS-NC is his fifth grade Invention Convention project.

My six years here at JPDS have been amazing. I have built friendships that will last forever. The teachers are so nice and caring, and they would never let me give up. This is why I have chosen my invention convention project as my artifact. It taught me how to think flexibly because when I was creating my invention, there were times when I needed to change my ideas or rework my graphs. The project taught me also how to take responsible risks. For example, I was encouraged to share my ideas even if I wasn’t sure they could work, because you never know where an idea may lead.

The teachers here at this school are amazing and wonderful people. They have helped me become a better person academically and in the community. I would like to thank the school, the teachers, the administration, and all the behind-the-scenes people who have helped me grow in the six years I have been here. I also would like to thank my parents and sister for supporting me through my journey. THANK YOU, JPDS-NC!

Lianna Rosman:

This artifact is a book called "All About Swimming, by Lianna R".

JPDS allowed me to explore my interests, better understand myself, and share my life through writing. In fourth grade we wrote “All About Books” on a topic we got to choose. I chose swimming because it’s my favorite sport. I swam every day, but I didn’t know much about the history. During this project, I got to learn more about how swimming evolved. This project also allowed me to bring an activity that I love to do outside of school, swimming, into something that I love to do in school, writing. In fact, being encouraged to write about swimming and other topics I love helped me to discover that I also love to write. JPDS helped me express myself through writing, which helped me become the person I am today.

Rafe Epstein:

A model of the Empire State Building made of cardboard, wood, and clay.

My artifact is the Empire State Building. I know what you’re all thinking: “What in the world is he talking about?!” Well, in first grade, my classmates and I made a giant model of the Empire State Building. We worked as a class and worked in groups to do this project. The teachers let us be as creative and imaginative as we wanted. This is how I will remember JPDS: a bunch of first graders all crowded around a giant structure made of cardboard boxes and duct tape, all engrossed and engaged, having a great time together making our interpretation of the Empire State Building.

Anna Well:
Every third grader receives a copy of the Metsudah Linear Chumash at Chagigat HaChumash.

In third grade, when I was eight years old, we got our own Chumash. Some people might say, “It’s just a Chumash. I mean at one point everyone gets one.” But, for me, it represented something, something special about JPDS. Every Jewish school teaches this, but JPDS makes it special. JPDS taught me about the values of Judaism and how important keeping values are.  JPDS makes a very big deal of students getting our Chumashim, and I’m glad the school does.  It helped me realize how important this moment was for a Jew. Besides getting my siddur, this was something that taught me about being a responsible Jew and showing respect to Hashem. It also showed me that now that I have my own Chumash I have to be really careful how I treat the Chumash. Overall I am very grateful that I got the Chumash because for me it showed me so much more about the importance of a JPDS education.

Samantha Feldman:

"New Jersy [sic]: Liberty and Prosperity" by Samantha F.

JPDS has made me look deeper into the world around me and think what about what I am doing and how I can contribute to the world. My state project was my first real project where JPDS made me look deeper into something I was interested in and felt strongly about. That report from third grade is a stepping stone to me and is why I chose it as my graduation artifact. My state was New Jersey, I had lived there for three years. My artifact is my booklet of writings from the state project. New Jersey is where I am from but I can’t remember something from when I was three. So I was curious and I pursued that curiosity in the form of the state project. I’m proud and glad I went to JPDS. I have many memories, values, and much knowledge that I will take with me on my way to middle school.

Danny Kotelanski:

A black photo album with a historical picture of Ellis Island on the cover.From all my seven years at JPDS, one of the projects I am most proud of was my fifth-grade Historic Site Guide. For this project, I researched and visited a historic site and created a virtual tour of it in a scrapbook. This project helped me learn new things about the world around me, about my family’s history, and about that of so many others. I learned that learning about something on the computer or in a book is not the same as seeing it in person and having the full experience. As I researched about Ellis Island, I learned and understood how important Ellis Island’s role was in America and how important it was to millions of lives, including some of my ancestors. When I went to New York to visit Ellis Island, I was amazed by all the things I saw. I also felt inspired by and connected to those who came before me as I stood in that building where millions of immigrants from all over the world passed through to enter our country. This project helped me see that we can learn in different ways. At JPDS, I have learned about the world through books, through lessons, and through the experience of actually visiting important sites.

Rebecca Gruber:

This plaster mask is painted blue, silver, gold, and other colors, and has a red and blue yarn bow.

During my eight years at JPDS I’ve learned to express my feelings – through art, speech, and dance. I’ve never felt that I needed to be hidden by a mask, but, ironically I chose to use this mask, which I created in fifth grade, to represent that I am not hidden by a mask, to express that I feel confident in who I am, how I learn, and what I care about. In this mask, I may have initially used almost every color there was in the Art Room because I wanted lots of color. Now when I think about it, I realize that I used all of those colors because I wanted people to know that I have many dimensions to me, all of which I can show to the world.

Jennifer Nehrer:
The artifact Jennifer chose is a colorful hand-drawn mandala in a red frame.

In second grade, I realized that Math doesn’t only include doing problems until I drop. It can also mean creating art projects and watching movies so we could learn complicated subjects in fun ways. This was made clear to me when our class made mandalas during our unit on symmetry. I was able to learn the concepts so much better than if they had been taught to me as lessons on worksheets. Being at JPDS meant that I could learn in so many different ways, and that is just one of the reasons that I will miss this school dearly.

Micah Berger:

The Kindergarten "Gan Shemesh Times" featuring Micah B. as its cover story.

My artifact represents that JPDS makes all of its students feel special every day. My artifact is the book my teacher made for me in Kindergarten when I was the Student-of-the-Week. In this book, there are many pictures of my classmates and me from Kindergarten, and there is a page of fill-in-the-blanks about myself. This made me feel special because my teacher made me this book, and then on the day when I got the book, I got to share it with my classmates and got to be the teacher for fifteen minutes. Another reason why it makes me feel special is that there are pictures of some activities my classmates and I did in Kindergarten where we are having a lot of fun and playing around. Even though this book is from Kindergarten JPDS has always made me feel special throughout my time at the school. I am grateful to have gone to a school that values its students so much.

Jacob Zuckerman:

Jacob Z's essay on the supreme court case Korematsu v. the U.S.

As my artifact representing my time at JPDS, I chose my Supreme Court Case Essay, on Korematsu v. the U.S., from fifth grade, because I think it was one of the best written works I have produced and really symbolized my progress through the years. I got a chance to analyze excerpts from Justices’ opinions. As you may know, sometimes the Justices’ language comes across basically as alien. I took this, I dug in, and I understood it. I also examined the relevant amendments in my Pocket Constitution. I analyzed these words to gain deeper insight into the way our country balances personal liberties and national security. This was the first time I wrote a fully fleshed-out essay, and I was able to express my thoughts and have them matter. This brought me great pride.

Tamar Pinsky:

Tamar chose her progress in writing to represent her progress at JPDS-NC.I chose to symbolize my time at JPDS through my writing. It has progressed, just like my opinions while studying Torah and almost any text. First, in writing, I learned to form words and form simple sentences, and from learning to connect sentences and make them more powerful, I learned to analyze texts. In Judaic Studies I learned to translate simple sentences, then to make the sentences more complicated and connected. And I learned to translate more complicated texts. I enjoyed discussing different opinions – from the Midrash and several commentators. And finally, I learned to analyze a text and express my own opinion, in both writing and while discussing a challenging verse. And now, I am able to get much more out of a conversation and out of learning itself, because I have learned to add on to others’ opinions and refine my own. Thank you.

Gabriel Brumberg:

Gabriel chose to compare his Pre-K and Sixth Grade school photos to represent his progress at JPDS-NC.

I’ve been going to JPDS for longer than I haven’t. I’ve made friends, written countless essays, and learned so much. And I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. But what makes JPDS so special to me? It’s not that I’ve had so many amazing and smart teachers, although I have. It’s not the warm community and great friends. It’s not that there were so many classes that I never expected to be so interesting, where we asked big questions and learned cool things. Although that’s true, it’s not really what is the most special for me. It is the way I’ve learned to think: ways of answering questions, processing information, and talking to others, skills that I believe are extremely important in life. When you look at my little Pre-Kindergarten self and back at me now, you can see that I’ve changed a lot. Well… Obviously! It’s been eight years! But it’s what is inside that matters.

JPDS has taught me how to dig deeply into every question, to understand that the answer isn’t just A, B, or C, but a discussion. I’ve learned how to open up to other possible answers and to challenge my own thinking. Rather than giving up on something I don’t like, I’ve learned to see how I can make it better. For instance, I contributed to the process of making Tefilah a class where we are not just praying but learning why we are doing it. I’ve learned to pour my heart into all the work that I do and to think about what Judaism means to me. And JPDS has shown me how I can find myself in whatever I’m doing, whether it be writing an essay on Ancient Greece, studying Jewish history or Torah, making a documentary in Hebrew, or even presenting to my peers everything I’d discovered about the sound made when dropping a ball. It’s not about awards or having a better grade than the next guy. It’s about being open-minded and challenging yourself to find the meaning in everything. And along the way, we’ve all learned to be citizens of this world, who walk with modesty, kindness, and a love for learning. So that’s the difference between me then and now. I’m still the same old kid who likes acting, writing, and music and is constantly talking… and talking. But now I think differently. I think more about everything.

But now, many laughs, cries, and hugs later, it’s time to graduate, time to move on. And although it’s sad, it’s our time to see how far we’ve come. And I’ll definitely miss this place. I’d end with a “thank you,” but that’s a given. So I’ll end with a suggestion. Everything I learned here can be learned by anyone, anywhere, all the open-mindedness and meaningful thinking. So embrace it, and try to learn it. Or further it if you already have. All right, I can’t help it; thank you!